Ever wonder what those bright red Swedish Fish that you’re so addicted to are made of (and by “you,” I actually mean “me”… just sayin’)? Well this week, our D Moms healthy living crusader Holly Pellham Davis lets us in on the dirty truth of artificial coloring. Suffice to say, my Swedish Fish deprogramming begins, well…now.
By Holly Pellham Davis
To ensure we get the proper nutrients, vitamins, and minerals we need to grow and thrive, nature has given us an innate desire to eat bright, deep, colorful foods designed to support survival.
Cut to modern day.
Food companies have created scores of incredibly alluring and successful products built on that basic biological need.
There are rainbow colored sprinkles in “yogurt,” brightly-hued beverages, fluorescent breakfast cereals, technicolor red “cherry” Jell-O, shelves teaming with gums, candies, lollipops (and even vitamins) in every color of the rainbow, and, the latest to make headlines, (yay Food-Babe) the “yellowest” of yellow#5 and yellow #6, Mac n Cheese.
To be fair, its not all about bright colors. What about caramel color (not the real caramel you melt in a saucepan)? Recently found to be highly carcinogenic, caramel color is commonly added to colas, sauces, baked goods, and candies.
So, what‘s the big fuss you ask?
Well, consider the following:
- Most artificial dyes are made from crude oil (coal-tar colors).
- Artificial dyes from these petro-chemicals contain mercury, lead, arsenic.
- Artificial dyes are commonly made in China.
According to The Feingold® Association, ingesting artificial dyes made from crude oil/petroleum can cause or contribute to the following:
- Mood swings, tantrums, and fits
- Deceases “good” bacteria in the gut and increases the bad
- Alters gut microbiota and can damage intestinal wall
- Neurological Disorders
And they are not just in our foods and beverages. Artificial dyes can be found in toothpaste, medications, and cosmetics. In cosmetics, the likelihood of fragrance is also high, which too, is commonly made from a petroleum base. Yet food companies insist on using these dyes in lieu of safe and healthy food-derived natural colors to cut costs and increase profits…all at the expense of our health.
To date, the FDA has revoked its approval of 91 dyes that were once widely used in food. Further, according to The Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, “There are currently only seven coal-tar colors that have FDA approval for general use in foods (Blue nr 1, Blue nr 2, Green nr 3, Red nr 3, Red nr 40, Yellow nr 5, and Yellow nr 6). Two others, Orange B and Citrus Red nr 2, are allowable only in very narrow applications.” Not one of the remaining seven colors (really nine) should be considered “safe” by the FDA. In fact, many are banned across the globe.
The fact that the dyes are used in foods most commonly advertised for children should be of particular interest to mothers (and fathers). The FDA states, despite animal studies, science and plain old common sense (that crude oil isn’t good to feed to kids), that these additives are “recognized as safe” but, I’ve yet to come across a single study of the effects of these additives on children — the number one target of food companies.
But the good news is that our personal choices are powerful. Here’s what we can do.
- Do not purchase products containing colors on the ingredient label, especially with a number after them, as companies use them to save money. Instead, use your money to support organic brands.
- Petition or stand with others to convince the FDA to remove these artificial colors from its approved list.
Ok.. I must add one thing that’s bugging me. I often tell my kids that just because its labeled “natural” does not always mean its good for you… For example, some “natural” food colorings are actually chopped insects. (Holy &^%#!) Public champion, Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA regarding industry bug use, citing an onslaught of allergic reactions. (And hello, it’s just plain gross.) The FDA partially relented by making it mandatory for companies to list on ingredient labels as: “ carmine and cochineal extract. “
I don’t know about you, but I want no part of a crude oil, tar-basted, belly-up bug on my dining table! So, join me in keeping ourselves and families free of these toxic and disease causing color additives in our food, medicine, and cosmetics. Together we can color our world, clean, fresh, and healthy.
Holly Davis aka “Mom Crusader”
Holly Pellham Davis is the founder of Clean Fresh Living, Inc., a service focused on educating consumers and families on the importance of healthy, organic, sustainable living for life and generations to come. You can hear more from Holly on her Clean Fresh Living blog, twitter, and Facebook.